Like most other American high school students, Garret Morgan had it drummed into him constantly: Go to college. Get a bachelor’s degree.
“All through my life it was, ‘if you don’t go to college you’re going to end up on the streets,’ ” Morgan said. “Everybody’s so gung-ho about going to college.”
So he tried it for a while. Then he quit and started training as an iron worker, which is what he is doing on a weekday morning in a nondescript high-ceilinged building with a concrete floor in an industrial park near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Morgan and several other men and women are dressed in work boots, hard hats and Carhartt’s, clipped to safety harnesses with heavy wrenches hanging from their belts. They’re being timed as they wrestle 600-pound I-beams into place.
Seattle is a forest of construction cranes, and employers are clamoring for skilled iron workers. Morgan, who is 20, is already working on a job site when he isn’t at the Pacific Northwest Iron workers shop. He gets benefits, including a pension, from employers at the job sites where he is training. And he is earning $28.36 an hour, or more than $50,000 a year, which is almost certain to steadily increase.